13: Be Compelled

Feature art by Christopher Gulick http://christophergulick.com/


I’ve been researching the business of art and the art of business. In the process, I came across a Wichitalks two minute video of artist Christopher Gulick. Although impossible in a two minute video to know someone, I greatly appreciate the enthusiasm for his life. It’s a refreshingly upbeat and positive perspective in the age of cultural cynicism and American fatalism.

Gulick reminds me the future belongs to those that live in it. Specifically, I really appreciate how he discusses his creative vision and his place in the world.

Here are four of his thoughts resonating with me.

“Do whatever the hell you want to, do it as best as you can, and don’t necessarily expect financial results from the town you live in.”

For reasons big and small, I think this the most important line from his video.

My general disregard for the rules of conformity for society’s benefit is both my strength and my weakness. Sometimes abandoning the concept of going along to get along is necessary to live a principled life. Sometimes my unwillingness to go along to get along is the reason I never was invited to the cool kid parties when I was in middle school.

It’s the reason, I abandoned jobs, careers and relationships midstream to jump ship and try something new and different. It’s the reason I was able to live on a sailboat in Maine and travel the country in a motorhome before I reach 50.

It’s also the reason some of the most important relationships are fractured and my finances are complicated. It’s the reason my retirement plan is to keep working.

None of this is a complaint. It is the reality of living between doing “whatever the hell you want” regardless of what the neighbors’ support and doing what you have to do to keep the electricity on.

In the good moments those vectors intersect. Often they don’t. There is no magic bullet to make adulting easier. Adulting is hard.

“I’m compelled to do what I do regardless of how difficult it is sometimes. How frustrating. How discouraging the results can be whether financial, or how the project goes.”

I’m not money motivated. I am mission motivated.

I learned long ago, the mission cannot be, ‘mo money. The mission has to be about people. The mission has to be tied to service. The mission has to be tied to a meaningful outcome. For this reason, I couldn’t sell bomb shelters, religion or fast food. The outcome may be shiny but it is hardly a meaningful mission to me.

Which doesn’t make me anti-you, anti-capitalism, anti-American or anti-anything. Although there are some that may disagree. Perhaps they see the money as the solution to every problem. It is their only tool, making every problem look like a nail in search of a good pounding.

Nearly every positive outcome in my life was enhanced by a willingness to embrace the mission. Nearly every negative outcome has been because I was chasing the shiny. I lost two marriages, partially, because someone ignored the mission and chased the shiny.

Given a choice between abandoning the mission or abandoning the shiny, I’ve learned the mission makes me richer and embracing the shiny leaves me poorer. I’m compelled to contribute, create and innovate.

Find a compelling mission for your life.

“I am passionate about culture. I like all of our cultures from everywhere. I like all the tribes…I like this great big molten, melting thing we’ve got going on here.”

Out of the entire video, this is the line that truly stuck with me. Maybe it’s simply the election season and Trumplican’s xenophobic, misogynistic and anti-intellectual rhetoric getting to me.

However, when I hear a microphone clown and their jingoism masquerading as patriotism or using politics to scapegoat “those” people” or whitewashing “that” behavior I intellectually vomit. Just because I don’t have an experience with a cultural heritage, religious indoctrination or sexual disposition doesn’t make it wrong or evil.

I’m fascinated with people and their innate, indoctrinated and adopted heritage, religion, music, foods, sexuality, moralities and anything else that helps shape culture. As Gulick said, “I am passionate about culture.”

Culture can only threaten my identity when I’m insecure with who I am.

“We’re all in this thing together and nobody gets out alive.”

I’ve been saying this to family, friends and strangers for years now. Perhaps my wordiness is to blame. When someone thanks me, I will often respond with, “Of course, we’re all in this together” or “We’re all on the same team.” It isn’t a platitude. It isn’t intended to be condescending. I believe it with my whole self. I’m compelled to believe it.

I believe in the principle: our actions either support one another or destroy all of us. I want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. It is the reason I’m on the Village Board. It is the reason I started the North of 8 Leaders and Innovators Meetup. It is the reason I support labor unions, quality universal healthcare and education. We’re in this together.

By helping you, I am also helping myself and I’m ensuring the future for those that come after us and for those that I love. I know it sounds quaint. I know it is idealistic. Perhaps, I watched too much Star Trek.

I’ve never met you. I probably never will but we are better together than apart. Working together we are only limited by the lack of imagination.

My motto: E pluribus unum; Out of many, one.

Watch the video from Wichitalks below.

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